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'Staging' a home for resale
Giving a house a quick makeover before putting it on the market is a wise move and decorator Gabrielle Grawey is making a career out of staging homes with dramatic flair

All the world's a stage, said Shakespeare, and all the men and women merely players. But let's face it; with the right makeup and lighting, some of us look better on stage than others.

The same can be said for homes. With the advice of a good interior decorator, and a diligent real-estate agent, it is possible to present your home in its best light when the time comes to put your house on the open market.

In today's real-estate market, where buyers are more cautious, making your home stand out from the others can serve as added value and ensure a better selling price.

Staging has become a powerful sales tool in the North American real-estate market. According to studies conducted by the Canadian-based E-Real Assist marketing service, home staging can add up to seven per cent to the selling price. A staged home may sell up to 21/2 times faster than a non-staged one.

And as with any good play, it helps if someone directs this home staging with artistic vision and purpose.

Gabrielle Grawey Interiors, for example, is in the business of advising and directing homeowners who want to sell, staging their home as if it were the set of a dramatic production. Grawey treats the home as a product on display, acting as a buffer between real-estate agent and homeowner to, in fact, depersonalizing the home before putting it up for sale.

"The first thing I do when called in is to determine what needs to be done in order to make the greatest positive impact," said Grawey, a professionally trained decorator. "As a stager, I advise clients where to remove clutter, where to depersonalize, where to paint, what furniture needs to be removed or accessories to be added."

After 25 years in their Beaconsfield home, Joseph Zilcha and his wife, Danielle, decided it was time to put their home on the market and move to a condominium in Cote St. Luc. The Zilchas heard about Grawey's service from their realtor and did not regret their decision to use it.

"Gabrielle had us take out some of the old carpeting, add neutral colours to some of the rooms and even take down some of our old family photos. She did a terrific job," Joseph Zilcha said.

They were so happy with the results they expect to recoup the costs of the staging in the sale of the house. And they have hired Grawey to decorate their new condo after the Zilchas' three-storey home is sold when it goes on the market in November.

Sharon Peloquin of Royal LePage has referred Grawey to clients who she thinks may need advice on how to make a successful first impression - the one that sticks in potential buyers' minds. Peloquin uses Grawey's staging knowledge to help clients prioritize what needs to be done before selling.

"You only get one chance for a good impression," said Peloquin. "Her expertise certainly makes my job easier, and that kind of advice is an easier sell from a professional rather that the agent."

Grawey's suggestions are not necessarily expensive ones either. After perhaps setting aside some old familiar pieces of furniture or paintings, replacing some carpeting or a paint job here and there, she might get rid of those old newspapers and tableside books, put out a vase of fresh flowers, or some scented candles. Get rid of unnecessary kitchen appliances, clean and clear the bathroom and add a few strategically placed rolled white towels, and the house is ready for the buying public.

"People are used to seeing the things in their house the same way," said Grawey, who has 15 years of experience in the decorating business, including five years staging the Tierra del Sol Golf and condominium project in Aruba.

After returning to Montreal, Grawey went through a long house-hunting period of her own, and her experience spawned the idea of staging other people's homes.

"I couldn't believe the condition of some of the homes I saw," she said. "The one I finally bought was the only one properly presented."

Another realtor on the list of Grawey advocates is Remax's Rosetta Gentile, who has found a valuable resource in her design and home staging expertise.

"Homebuyers are very visual and Gabrielle has the creative IQ to make the product more attractive," Gentile said.

Buyers "tend to go with their emotions. If they feel the ambience of the house, they are more likely to come back again for a second look."

Shakespeare's famous quote about the world being a stage is from his play As You Like It.

If Grawey were to write a play of her own, she might well title it If You Like It, Buy It. After all, why wait?

In the home staging business, it's all about bringing the audience to its feet.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

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